Now That You're Here
After what seemed like an eternity, Justin finally made it up to ICU. When Zander had told the nurse that they were going up to see Brian, she insisted that Justin be transported in a wheelchair. Justin didn’t bother trying to argue and now he was thankful. He was sure that his legs would’ve buckled at the sight of Brian lying unconscious in bed with Chris at his side. He could feel the tears building once again and tried to push them away. He needed to be strong so that he could say what he needed to say.
“Okay, give me a minute to talk to Chris and then I’ll bring you in.”
Justin just nodded.
Chris heard someone enter the room and turned to see Zander walk in. He stood up from the bedside chair and took his partner in his arms.
“How is he?” Zander asked as he hugged Chris tight. It killed him that he couldn’t be by Chris’ side through this, but Justin needed him.
“The same. I keep looking at him, watching for signs that he’s waking up, but so far nothing has happened. How’s Justin?”
“The doctor released him, but he’s a mess, Chris. He insisted on coming up to see Brian. You don’t know what it took to keep him from jumping out of bed and running up here on his own.” Zander took a deep breath before continuing. “He loves him, Chris.”
“I know he does,” Chris replied. “We all do, but he has to take care of himself. He should be home getting some rest.”
“No Chris. I mean he really loves him; the way I love you. Apparently they’ve been together for the last couple of months, but decided not to tell us. That’s why he’s been so devastated. He said that he never told Brian how he really felt about him, but that he needs to tell him now. I didn’t want to bring him up here, but I had to. I kept thinking about how I’d feel if it was you lying there. Nothing would’ve kept me away.”
“Shit,” Chris whispered.
“Yeah,” Zander sighed. “You know, it’s funny. We talked about the possibility of an attraction between them. We even talked about them hooking up, but love? I don’t think I ever considered that possibility.”
“And all this time they’ve been living upstairs together, alone every night,” Chris pointed out.
“Yeah, but something tells me that nothing was going on.” Zander laughed at the incredulous look on Chris’ face. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t know the whole story, but they obviously didn’t want us to know. I doubt they’d be dumb enough to be sleeping together right upstairs. Besides, none of that matters right now. What does matter is how Justin is feeling. Brian isn’t just a close friend lying in a hospital bed. He’s the boy Justin loves and he’s terrified he’s going to lose him, just like he lost his parents.”
Chris looked back at Brian and sighed. “He’s not the only one.”
“Look, you’ve been sitting here all night. Why don’t we bring Justin in and then go take a quick walk around the building? The fresh air will do you some good.” Zander could see the conflict in his partner’s face. “We won’t be gone long.”
“Yeah, alright,” Chris agreed. “My legs could use the exercise.”
Justin waited until Chris and Zander were gone before taking Brian’s hand in his. It felt so strange, seeing Brian lying there like that and unable to wake him up. He ignored the tears that were starting to spill down his face and he composed the words he needed to say.
“Brian, this is such a mess. I’m still not sure what happened. One minute I was holding your hand, thinking about how happy I was and the next minute you were unconscious and fighting for your life. Please keep fighting. I need you to come back to me. I need to tell you how much you mean to me. I love you. You mean more to me than anyone else in this world so you can’t leave me. Can you hear me? You can’t leave me here all alone.”
With those final words, Justin lost his composure and laid his head on the bed, sobbing uncontrollably. He didn’t know how long he was there. Time seemed to stand still until he felt a hand touch his shoulder. He turned his head and saw both Chris and Zander looking at him with worried expressions.
“He’s going to get better, right? He’s going to be okay.”
“I hope so, Justin,” Chris replied tearfully. “I really, really hope so.”
“Justin,” Zander said, clearing his throat. “I really need to get you home. You need your rest.”
“It’s okay. Chris will be here with him and I’ll bring you back first thing in the morning.”
“He’s right, Justin. Brian would want you to take care of yourself. I promise I’ll call if anything changes,” Chris assured him.
Justin looked back at Brian as he stood up and wiped his tears away. Taking a deep breath, he leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Brian’s lips. “I love you,” he whispered.
Chris and Zander exchanged looks as they watched Justin say goodbye. Once he was back in the wheelchair, the three of them walked out of the room.
“Do you need me to bring you anything?” Zander asked.
“No, I think I’m good for now. I’ll call you in a little bit. Get some rest.”
“You too,” Zander replied. He gave Chris a lingering kiss goodbye and then pushed Justin towards the elevator, hoping that when Chris called, the news would be good.
“I’m fine, Zan. The pain killer is kicking in and making me tired. I’m going to go to sleep for a little while. I don’t need you hovering.” Justin was lying in his bed upstairs, waiting for Zander to leave so that he could be alone.
“I know, but I like hovering. When Chris told me there had been an accident, I was so scared. I’m so worried about Brian right now, but I’m glad that you’re okay. You know I love you, right?”
“I know you do. I love you, too. Now go get some rest. You look like shit,” Justin teased, hoping it would get Zander to leave. He did love his cousin, but he really did want to be alone for awhile.
“Thanks a lot. Alright, I’m going. If you need anything, just call my cell. Don’t try to come down the stairs on your own yet. I’ll come back and check on you in a little while.”
Once Zander was gone, Justin gave in to his tears. Being at home was hard. The minute he walked through the door, thoughts of Brian invaded his mind. He couldn’t believe that his boyfriend wasn’t going to come barging through the front door, complaining about the customers at the store, or about how Steve insisted they watch another one of his dumb movies. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that Brian was lying in a hospital bed across town, unable to wake up and come home. He reached for the phone and dialed Jason’s number, hoping his friend would be home.
“Hey, it’s me,” Justin replied.
“Hey Jus, I was just thinking about you. How’s everything going?”
“Um…not so good,” Justin admitted sadly.
“Jus, have you been crying? What’s wrong?”
“Jason, Brian and I were in an accident last night.”
“What? Holy shit, are you guys okay?”
“I am. Just some stitches and a dislocated shoulder, but Brian…he’s…”
“It’s bad, Jason. There was internal bleeding. They had to operate and he’s not waking up. The doctor said something about intra-cranial swelling…I don’t know what that means. He’s in intensive care and Chris is with him, but they wouldn’t let me stay. Jas, what am I going to do if I lose him?” Justin cried.
“Oh Justin, I’m so sorry. But Brian’s a strong guy. He’ll pull through this.”
“What if he doesn’t? What if I lose him just like I lost Mom and Dad? Why is this happening? Why does everyone I love get taken away from me?”
Jason wiped away the dampness from his eyes as he listened to his best friend sobbing on the other end of the line. “Okay, you need to calm down. Brian hasn’t been taken away from you. He’s going to pull through this. You just have to have faith.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
“You can. You’re one of the strongest people I know. You just have to believe that everything will be okay. I wish I was there with you.”
“Me too,” Justin replied weakly. “Look, I’ve got to go. The pain meds are kicking in. I just needed…to hear your voice.”
“Call me later, alright?”
Justin hung up the phone as his exhaustion started taking over. He kept replaying Jason’s words over and over again in his head. He had to believe that everything would be okay.
Zander was lying in bed trying to get the memories of the last fifteen hours out of his head when the phone rang. He froze for a moment and prayed that the call wasn’t bad news before answering.
“Zander, it’s Jason. I hope I’m not bothering you. I spoke with Justin a little while ago and I wanted to see how he was really doing,” Jason said.
“Truthfully? Physically he’s doing okay. The doctor thinks that his shoulder will heal quickly with no lasting side effects. Mentally, he’s not so good. Can I assume that you know about him and Brian?”
“Yeah, I’ve known since the beginning,” Jason admitted, somewhat surprised that Zander knew about the relationship. “Listen, I’m calling because I just talked to my mother. There’s a flight leaving in a couple hours out of Pittsburgh International and I want to be on it but…well, I don’t want to intrude. I just want to be there for Justin, but if you’d rather I didn’t, I’ll understand.”
“What about school?” Zander asked.
“I can miss a week. I’ll just bring whatever books I have here with me and email my teachers. I should be able to do most of my work from your house. I’m a good student so I’m not worried.”
“Are you sure? Is your mother okay with this?”
“Yes, I’m sure. And Mom is fine with it. In fact, she said she was proud of me for wanting to help out a friend. She’s known Justin for a long time and she’s worried about him, too,” Jason explained.
“Oh Jason, you have no idea how much I’d appreciate this. I’ve been so worried about Justin, and I can’t leave him here alone right now, but I really want to be with Chris. He’s so devastated and he’s been going through this alone while I’ve been with Justin. I’ll even pay for your plane ticket,” Zander offered.
“It’s okay, Zander. My mother already offered to pay. Everything is ready to go. I was just waiting until you said yes. My plane lands at 9:22 pm your time. I’ll grab a cab and be at the house by ten.”
“Thank you, Jason. I’m sure Justin will be thrilled to see you. He could really use a friend right now.”
“That’s what I’m here for. I have no doubt that Justin would do the same for me,” Jason replied with certainty.
Justin was lying in bed staring at the clock. It was just after ten and he couldn’t sleep. Chris had called several times throughout the day, but there was still no change to Brian’s condition. Steve had also called a few times, checking in so that he could give everyone an update. They all wanted to go to the hospital to see Brian, but ICU was very restricted so they were told to stay away until Brian could be moved to a regular room. Zander had been restless all afternoon and Justin felt bad for him. He knew how much his cousin wanted to be with his partner, and he tried to encourage him to go, but Zander refused to leave him alone. The whole situation was such a mess and Justin cursed his injury for keeping both him and Zander away.
He heard a soft knock on the door and sighed. He really needed Zander to stop hovering.
“I told you I’m fine. I don’t need anything,” Justin called out.
The door opened and Jason stood in the doorway. “I know. I just wanted to see that for myself.”
“Jason? What are you doing here?”
“I heard that my best friend was in an accident and wanted to make sure he was okay,” Jason replied with a smile.
Justin struggled to sit up, yelping in pain when he moved the wrong way.
“Hey, take it easy,” Jason said as he dropped his bag and went to Justin’s side. “I didn’t come here to cause you more pain.”
“I can’t believe that you flew all the way in from Pittsburgh for me,” Justin said tearfully. He really needed to learn how to control his emotions.
“Why not? You’d do it for me,” Jason said. “So, Zander said there were no changes.”
“No, and it’s killing me. I need him to wake up, Jason. I just need him to be okay.”
“I know, and he will be. My mom and dad send their love. When I told Mom what happened and said that I wanted to come here, she all but booked the flight herself. She stood right over me while I called Zander and asked if it was okay,” Jason laughed.
“You called Zan? You mean he knew you were coming all afternoon and didn’t tell me? I’m going to ring his neck.”
“Yeah, well you’ll have to wait to do it. He left right after I got here to go see Chris.”
“Good. I know this has been hard on him, too. Chris has been sitting by his brother’s bedside since he got out of surgery sometime this morning, and I know Zander wanted to be there with him. I told him I’d be fine here alone for awhile, but he wouldn’t leave me. I appreciate it, but Chris needs him, too”
“I know. Zander thanked me for coming about ten times before he left. He’s really trying to hold it all together, but he doesn’t look so good. Maybe spending some time at the hospital with Chris will help,” Jason said.
“I hope so. I still can’t believe this is happening. And it pisses me off that everyone’s getting so worked up over my stupid shoulder. Yeah, it hurts a little bit, but I’m fine. There’s no reason I can’t be at the hospital with Brian.”
“Dude, you can’t even get out of bed,” Jason pointed out.
“I wouldn’t be in bed at the hospital,” Justin replied with sarcasm.
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter. You’re hurt and you’re not going anywhere tonight. Now give me the number of the local pizza joint. I haven’t eaten since this morning and I’m starving.”
Chris was sitting in the ICU waiting room when he saw Zander walk in.
“Babe, what are you doing here?” Chris asked as he got up and greeted his partner. “And where’s Justin? Is he okay? You didn’t have to bring him back in, did you? Did something happen?”
“Oh my God, would you relax?” Zander chuckled. “Justin’s fine. Jason is with him.”
“Jason? Jason from Pittsburgh?”
“Yeah. Apparently Justin called him when we got home this afternoon and told him what happened. Jason called me and asked if it would be okay if he came out for a few days. He’s worried about Justin. I was so thankful that I offered to pay for the plane ticket, but his mother wouldn’t let me,” Zander explained. “They seem like a nice family.”
“We’ll have to send them something when this is all over as a thank you,” Chris replied. “God, it’s so good to see you. Did you get some sleep?”
“No, not really. How about you?”
“I dozed off for about an hour, I guess. I can’t wait until Brian gets out of here. I’m going to sleep for three days straight.” Chris choked on a sob. “If he gets out of here.”
“Babe, don’t even think that. He’s going to be okay. We just have to keep telling ourselves that.”
“But it’s getting so hard. I’ve been sitting by his side all day watching for any sign that he’s coming around, but he’s just lying there so still. It’s like it’s not even him, you know? And I keep thinking about the last time I saw him. I keep wondering if he knows how much I love him. I’ve been so busy lately and he’s been going through so much. Work, school, therapy; he’s been handling it all on his own and I’m so proud of him, but he’s still just a kid. I should’ve been there more. I should’ve made more time for him. I should’ve been a better brother to him,” Chris said softly.
“Christopher Robert Kinney, don’t you say one more word. You have been a terrific brother to Brian, and he knows that. We’ve all been busy, Brian included, but that’s a part of life. He understands that and it’s okay because he knows that if he ever needs you, like he does right now, you’ll drop everything to be there for him. That’s what really counts.”
“What would I do without you?” Chris said as he pulled Zander to him.
“Probably drive yourself crazy,” Zander laughed. “But don’t worry. I don’t plan on you ever having to find out. Now let go of me. I want to go see Brian. Can I just go down there or do I have to sneak my way in?”
“Truthfully, I have no idea what the policy is on visitors in ICU, but no one has ever stopped me. If they give you a problem, just come and get me.”
“Okay, I’ll be back,” Zander said before kissing Chris once again.
“I’ll be right here waiting for you.”
Zander had no trouble getting into Brian’s room. The only nurse visible on the floor had her back to him while she typed away on the computer. As he entered the room, he was once again struck by the tragedy of the situation. Seventeen year old kids should not be lying in ICU. He walked over and took Brian’s hand as he sat down on the chair that Chris had been using all day.
“Hey Buddy, how’re you doing? Can you even hear us? Do you know that Chris has been by your side since the beginning? And that I had to place Justin under house arrest just so he can heal, because all he wants to do is stay here with you? Steve and all the others are beside themselves with worry. Even Jason is worried. He flew in tonight to be with Justin. You have so many people who love you and are praying for you to get better. You need to fight this, Brian. You need to wake up and let us all know that you’re okay.”
Zander sat there for a little while longer, willing Brian to open his eyes to no avail. His thoughts were all over the place as so many memories ran through his mind, but one thought seemed to take the front burner and he knew he had to speak with Chris about it.
“Alright Kid, I’m going to go check on Chris. Remember, I love you as if you were my own brother. We all love you and we’re all waiting for you to open your eyes. Please don’t make us wait much longer.”
Chris was sitting in the waiting room with his head back and his eyes shut when Zander walked back in. The only other person in the room was an elderly man sitting alone in the far corner. Zander could see that his eyes were red-rimmed and offered a sympathetic smile as he made his way over to his partner. As soon as he sat down, Chris sat up and opened his eyes.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Zander said softly as he took Chris’ hand.
“It’s okay. I wasn’t really sleeping. Just zoning out, I guess. Have I mentioned how glad I am that you’re here?”
“Yeah, you did.” Zander smiled. “Listen, I was thinking.”
“Have you thought about calling your parents?” Zander asked tentatively.
Chris jumped up from his chair. “And why would I do that?”
“Calm down, Chris. It’s just a suggestion.”
“Yeah, but why would you suggest it? Why would I call my parents?”
“Oh, I don’t know; maybe because they’re Brian’s parents. They might want to know that their son is in ICU,” Zander suggested carefully.
“Their son? Their son? Zan, how can you say that? Brian stopped being their son when they threw him out of the house for being himself,” Chris snapped. “I can’t believe that you of all people would even mention this now.”
“Look Chris, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Zander walked over and tried to take Chris’ hand, but Chris pulled away. “Just forget I said anything. I think I’m going to go get a cup of coffee. Do you want any?”
Zander could still hear the anger in Chris’ voice and felt bad for suggesting the Kinney’s be called. He sighed in frustration. “Alright, I’ll be back.”
Chris waited until Zander was gone to drop back down in his chair. He really wasn’t mad at Zander. He was mad at himself because he’d been thinking about his parents ever since receiving the news about the accident the night before. His parents really didn’t have a right to know about Brian. They had made it clear when he contacted them about obtaining guardianship right after Brian had moved in that they wanted nothing to do with either of their sons. Yet a part of Chris couldn’t help but wonder if they’d want to know that their youngest son was fighting for his life. It was easier to push his thoughts away when they were only his thoughts. Zander’s suggestion just made him wonder if he was doing the right thing in not calling them.
Zander took his coffee from the machine and then sat down in a nearby chair. He knew Chris wasn’t really mad at him, just the situation, but that didn’t make him feel any better. He never meant to upset his partner, but he’d been thinking about the Kinney’s all day. Yes, they had disowned both their sons when their sexuality became known, but did that mean that they didn’t have a right to know that Brian was seriously injured? Who was to say what was right and wrong in a situation like this? Either way, it was Chris’ decision to make, and Zander would stand beside him regardless of that decision.
“Hey, there you are,” Chris said as he approached Zander. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I know you were just making a suggestion. The only reason I reacted the way I did was because you voiced the thoughts that I’ve been trying to ignore all day.”
Zander offered a small smile as he stood up and faced Chris. “Look, I don’t know what the right thing to do here is. It’s your decision to make and I’m behind you in whatever you decide.”
“But that’s the problem. I don’t know what to do. A part of me thinks that I should call them and tell them what happened. Leave it up to them whether or not they want to see their son. But another part, the part that can’t forget all the pain they caused Brian, thinks that they don’t deserve to know. They don’t deserve to know about Brian now when they wanted nothing to do with him before.”
“You need to do what you think is right in your heart. Why don’t you give it a little more time? Brian could wake up any minute and then all of this would be pointless anyway. We can just wait and see what tomorrow brings.”
“Yeah, I think that would be best for now,” Chris agreed. “I love you. You know that, right?”
“I know. I love you, too,” Zander replied. And it was true. He loved Chris more than ever and he wished with everything he had that he could offer the comfort that the older man needed. Unfortunately, the only one that could take away Chris’ pain was Brian. He just had to wake up first.
End of part 25
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